Geert Dekkers
Since 2002
Works in United States of America

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DISCUSSION digest, May 03, 2007 - May 09, 2007 digest
May 03, 2007 - May 09, 2007
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1790. May 03, 2007
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1791. May 04, 2007
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1792. May 05, 2007
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Geert Dekkers--------------------------- | |

DISCUSSION digest, Apr 26, 2007 - May 02, 2007 digest
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Geert Dekkers--------------------------- | |


Re: Re: Re: is art useless?

Hi all,

Just to tighten the circle somewhat around the subject of this thread
-- a step back.

In 1582 a Jesuit Cardinal named Gabriele Paleotti wrote a treatise on
the position art should take in. The reigning form otf the time was
Mannerism, an overly erudite, overly sophistocated, aristrocratic
style. He advocated a simpler form, a form utilising everyday objects
and scenes to better tell the story of the Catholic Church. This
became the style of the Baroque.

My point here concerning the question "is art useless" is twofold --
one, that the question is about "art" -- and, as I suppose everyone
knows, this didn't exist before around 1850. What the Cardinal is
talking about is "image production" -- in a time that all images
where created by hand. In his day, an image was not the product of an
individual mind, but rather the outcome of a complex arrangement.
Texts were consulted, programmes designed. It was a team effort. Much
like an ad campaign today.

The other thing -- and now we reach the "useless" part -- is that the
Cardinal had something to gain from a successful image production
concept. The stakes were pretty high in his day -- the Jesuit order
was founded to combat the Protestant onslaught. It was essential to
keep the ordinary man a believer of the Catholic faith. One of of the
key factors was to use image production to instruct, uplift and move
the spectator.

The problem -- one of the problems -- artists have is that they must
compete with this kind of image production that is now -- mistakenly
-- called art. This is apparent in the visual arts, but also true of
music. "Art", as it came to rise somewhere after mid 19th century, is
the product of the individual mind -- preferably a genius mind,
choosing content and form as s/he sees fit. It is NOT a team effort.
There is no written "programme" for a work of art, no condoning by
the community. The programme of the artist is "written" as s/he works.

And from that moment on, also, "art" is in crisis. Exactly because
the "programme" of the artist is not a product of community
consensus, there is no intrinsic funding of a project. Artists
produce artworks without security. The government -- a hugely
disparate body compared to the initiators of contempory image
production (ads) -- disinterestedly funds some projects. But of
course budgets are laughingly low compared to what even a medium
sized company spends on getting their message across.

"Is art useless" -- well from the point of view of the general
public, it is. At least, the funding of the production of NEW art is.
Because for some reason or other, the big money gets to places where
people congregate to see art, Preferably old art, or somewhat old
art. It gets to the large museal projects that arise in our major
cities. There, art is very "useful". Because where else would a
tourist go to while in -- just to take a example from just down the
road -- Amsterdam? Surely not just to visit that one smart shop. They
go to the Rijksmuseum, to see a piece that was produced as (secular)
image production. They go to the "ur" artist Van Gogh in his museum.

New art is necessarily fragile. Production without team effort,
without being condoned by a community, it's not difficult to chime in
on a negative tone when the question of arts "usefulness" is raised.
Which is of course why artists form groups, movements, build their
own communities. New art is intrinsically useless -- the production
precedes argument, precedes conceptualistion, precedes budgetting,
precedes programme. Thus precedes use. Thus art IS useless?

Geert Dekkers--------------------------- | |

On 30/04/2007, at 12:34 AM, Michael Szpakowski wrote:

> Hi Curt
> I wasn't being combative or having a tilt at you & I'm
> sorry if my rather quick & compressed formulation made
> it appear so, nor would I wish to simply dismiss
> Heidegger. I quite agree that insight (& indeed
> talent) isn't the sole preserve of the righteous,
> however defined.
> I *do* think there is a particular problem with
> Heidegger though -the man was a *member* of the Nazi
> party for over 10 years during the commission by the
> Nazis of crimes against humanity that were quite
> singular in their awfulness.
> Even his reflections way after the time were marked
> by, to put it at its most charitable, an insensitivity
> that is quite breathtaking (his comparison of the
> Holocaust with the mechanisation of agriculture).
> So what I find difficult to accept is that there was
> no connection *at some level* between the actions &
> the thought ( because if there *isn't* that connection
> *at some level* in a philosopher between 'say' & 'do'
> then their work is either meaningless or cant) of
> someone as smart as Heidegger clearly was. And that to
> me is troubling. I'm absolutely *not* arguing that
> everything he said is simply tainted & should be
> rejected tout court as a sort of contagion; only that
> a degree of caution is required. Therefore I guess I
> feel that if I see a discussion of Heidegger that
> doesn't at least once reference this pretty salient
> feature of his life, I feel obliged to point it out,
> on a kind of health warning principle.
> best
> michael
> --- curt cloninger <> wrote:
>> Hi Michael,
>> Not to be flip either, but that seems a convenient
>> excuse to dismiss his writing carte blanche without
>> weighing the merit of what he has to say. Althusser
>> strangled his wife. Pollock was a drunk. Marx was
>> a bum (and a Marxist!). Heck, Kierkeggard was a
>> freaking *Christian* (for God's sake). Heidegger's
>> involvement with the Nazi party seems less like an
>> elephant and more like a bogey (depending on your
>> particular flavor of literary criticism and how much
>> it depends on the author's personal biography).
>> I think Geert is right. Especially with Heidegger,
>> a close reading is necessary (and surely in German
>> would be even better). Especially in his later
>> writings, he's coming to understand that denotative
>> prose isn't the best tool to use to elucidate a
>> project of re-examining the received and calcified
>> presumptions of language. So his language gets
>> necessarily more poetic, and the event of reading it
>> is all part of his overall project.
>> Admittedly, Heidegger is particularly keen on how a
>> person actually lives daily in the world. He's a
>> big proponent of doing rather than saying (which
>> makes him useful to anyone who thinks art is a way
>> of doing that explores realms in which words fall
>> short). So the claims of his particular philosophy
>> do invite a closer examination of his own personal
>> way of being in the world than someone like Derrida.
>> To me Heidegger's membership in the Nazi part
>> illustrates not so much that Heidegger's philosophy
>> is wrong or leads to wrong ways of doing, but that
>> it takes more than a philosophy (right, wrong, or
>> otherwise) or an art practice (paradigm advancing,
>> politically engaged, or otherwise) to empower one to
>> act ethically in the world.
>> Respect,
>> Curt
>> ++++++++++
>> michael wrote:
>> Hi all
>> I really mean to be neither flip nor glib, but my
>> big
>> problem with Heidegger is that fact that he was a
>> Nazi.
>> Kind of elephant in the roomish really :)
>> michael
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Re: is art useless?


As far as I understand Being And Time (just halfway through my first
reading) Heideggers object is not to answer the grand ontological
question, but to discover effective ways in which to ask such a
question. Heidegger covers a larger part of the philosophical
discourse in order to find object and method of an inquiry into Being
and Time. Which for me already answers the question "is art useful",
(I know, a well-trodden path), it is useful not because it provides
us with answers, but with ways to ask effectively.

Now, of course, there are many valid art forms that do not address
ontological problems and do not wish to. You might even concur that
there are more important things to be done in this day and age. These
art forms use symbol, metaphor, and other figures as ready-mades, or
mine technological veins for new figures, in order to communicate
content. Much activist art falls in this category. And -- again --
this is not to say that good work is not being done. Absolutely, and
I love and admire much of this work. Its "use" is obvious, because it
clarifies and propogates issues that concern us all. But when I see a
question of the "uselessness" of art, I inadvertedly mould this
question into one of the "uselessness" of art projects asking
fundamental, ontological questions.

Furthermore, when the question "is art useless?" comes up, and
especially if you read a discouraging NO in this question, you could
also ask the same of Heideggers project in Being and Time. Is it
useless to wish to ask these fundamental questions? Of course we then
get into the notion of use, and uselessness. And again, Heideggers
work, but now "The Origin of Art" can be called in. Among other
things, Heidegger here attempts to clear the stage of "equipmental"
work, in order to focus of the "work" of art. This clearing is in
itself commendable. In other words -- there is "use" in this work,
even if the object may never be reached.

Well, where is ontological problem addressed in art? In Morandi,
where he questions the objects. In Barnett Newman and other post-
abstract-expressionists, where he questions the artworks. In Beuys,
where he questions the artist. Now in computer art there has been
much work done in this last realm, and more specifically concerning
the production of artworks, where a computer program takes over the
artist in the creation process. That this falls short at the moment
is not withstanding the importance of the programme, and I'm sure
with the advances made in AI, RDF/OWL and Jeff Hawkins' HTM, the
project will gain momentum in the coming years.

The importance of Heidegger is not so much in the conclusions he
reaches, even if these conclusions are powerful. Even in the summary
of The Origin of the Work of Art, you realise that the truth isn't
all here, but just as much in the meticulous shaping of the text by
Heidegger, and your close reading of it. There is use in this close
proximity, there is love here. From writer and reader both.

Geert Dekkers--------------------------- | |

On 28/04/2007, at 4:07 PM, curt cloninger wrote:

> Hi Eric,
> There are thinkers like Deleuze and after him Brian Massumi and
> Bruno Latour trying to think of ways in which art (and humans)
> might be different in a networked world. But they've all read
> their Heidegger and are in dialogue with him. Heidegger raises
> meta-philosophical questions that are still relevant. For
> instance: how novel is any system of ontological knowing that
> derives from an inherited way of being in the world which makes
> implicit assumptions about 'being' that have yet to be purposefully
> considered? Descartes says, 'I think therefore I am, and that's a
> pretty novel deduction,' and Heidegger replies, 'Seems like a fresh
> idea, but you're already making implicit medieval assumptions about
> what thinking and being even are.' You can construct new
> ontologies until the cows come home, but unless you've realized
> some new way of being in the world, and have considered at length
> what it means to create ontologies from this new place in the
> world, then you're not breaki!
> ng with the past. You're simply carrying the past forward unawares.
> To take just one example, a regular coke can in my world *at all*
> effects my world much more radically than a coke can embedded with
> a smart chip tied into a network. A reading of Heidegger suggests
> we should spend some time wrestling with what a 'thing' even is
> before we launch headlong into trying to figure out what a 'smart
> thing' is.
> If Heidegger's understanding and treatment of "technology" needs
> some upgrading, it is properly done in dialogue with the specifics
> of what he claimed, not with a dismissive wave of the 21st Century
> reset button, which throws any useful suspicion he might have
> afforded us out with the bath water. [That last sentence mixes no
> less than four metaphors. Yes!]
> Duchamp said, 'the function of art is to question art' (I'm
> probably paraphrasing or misattributing altogether). Might the
> function of art be to question the whole project of ontological
> knowing? If such is the case, art is likely to perpetually evade
> your constructed systems of ontological knowing (whether they are
> based on Leibniz or Vannevar Bush or Berners-Lee or Bigfoot). Such
> evasion is one of the functions of art.
> Curt
> P.S. indicates you think I'm
> . That is my uncle. We have the same
> name.
> +++++++++
> eric dymond wrote:
> ..The thread has quoted Habermas, and other thinkers from the last
> millenium as if they carried weight in a described ontology that is
> friendly to machines and humans alike. They couldn't forsee the
> machinic world computer mediated knowledge exists in. So what do we
> have then?
> Well, I'd prefer looking to Steve Pepper and Tim Berner Lee rather
> than Benjamin or Habermas, or any other Euro thinker from the non-
> networked millenium we left behind. We could quote dead philosphers
> and seera of the past.
> That is not the best route to travel to understand how the word
> "ART" would survive in this millenium.
> From a strictly ontological appraoch, something like "web art" or
> "painting" can be accomodated, there is room for qualification and
> quntification. But "ART", I do know a little bit about Information
> and Document theory and practice. From this small hill on the new
> media landscape the word "ART" is now just an adverb that connotes
> intent.
> I tried setting up Ontopia Navigator to accomodate the word "ART"
> and failed to generate anything worthwhile. Of course the failure
> could be mine, but I think it has more to do with the way we now
> organize knowledge.
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Re: Re: Re: is art useless?

Thanks. I posted that a while back, almost forgotten about it. Didn't
actually trigger a lively thread :)

And of course I will read the paper.


On 26/04/2007, at 7:10 PM, curt cloninger wrote:

> Hi Geert,
> Here is a paper I wrote this year for my MFA program. It is in
> explicit or implicit dialogue with Heidegger throughout. Don't
> feel obliged to read or respond (it's 25 pages), but maybe you'll
> find it useful:
> Currently, "What is art good for?" is leading me to answer: "Art is
> good for freeing things up to be good at what they are good for."
> Which leads to the question, "What are things good for?" Which
> begs the question, "What are things for at all?" Which begs the
> question, "What are things?" I appreciate Heidegger's
> understanding that things gather the fourfold (earth, sky, mortals,
> and divinities), because it opens things up to God and humans and
> the world instead of simply reducing humans to mere things (or
> quasi-objects perpetuated by sub-networks of mere things). Jean-
> Luc Marion sees things as gifts that are given out of God's
> goodness. These gifts act as invitations to return thanks to God.
> So things become vehicles of a relationship between humans and God.
> Breifly stated, art can be a way of using things (light and sound
> included) to return thanks to God (less in a symbolic, mimetic,
> Michelangelo way and more in a phenomenological La Monte Young
> way), and letting things use me to release them to return thanks to
> God. Meister Eckhart says, '[Every creature] reach[es] up to my
> understanding as if to get understanding through me. I alone
> prepare creatures to return to God.